Should the deal get approved, Microsoft’s record-breaking $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard will transform the video game landscape, vastly expanding the Xbox division’s portfolio of IP and its first-party studio system – which has already swelled in recent years through purchases of major developers like Bethesda, Double Fine, Obsidian, inXile, Playground, Ninja Theory, and more. While the global games business grapples with the ramifications of the Microsoft-Activision deal, one clear concern for many is whether the blockbuster Call of Duty series will remain accessible to PlayStation owners.
According to Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer, the company intends to honor any existing agreements that Activison has in place with Sony for Call of Duty. At a minimum, the next three entries in the franchise will be coming to both Xbox and PlayStation platforms, according to Bloomberg. The Activision acquisition isn’t expected to close until sometime during Microsoft’s 2023 fiscal year starting on July 1, 2023. Once the giant publisher is fully incorporated into Microsoft, it’s unclear what the future will hold for many of its top gaming properties.
Minecraft remaining on all platforms following the 2014 Mojang purchase may be an encouraging sign for non-Xbox players, but the more recent example of Microsoft’s Bethesda deal tells a slightly different story. While Microsoft did honor Bethesda’s shipping Deathloop for PS5, and intends to release Ghostwire Tokyo across platforms in 2022, the Xbox team has since said that several upcoming Bethesda Games, including Redfall, Starfield, and The Elder Scrolls 6, will all be exclusive to Xbox and Windows PC.
While Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard IP will clearly be leveraged to bolster the value proposition of Xbox Game Pass, it also makes a lot of sense for Microsoft to maintain the large player base that Call of Duty has garnered over the years by sticking to a multi-platform approach. Call of Duty has sold over 400 million units in the franchise’s lifetime, and there are nearly as many fans of the first-person shooter on PlayStation as there are on Xbox consoles.
According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, 42% of Xbox owners consider themselves a fan of Call of Duty, just slightly ahead of PlayStation owners at 39%. Fanship is a bit lower for PC gamers and Nintendo Switch owners, but even on Nintendo’s family-friendly console, fully one-third is a Call of Duty fan, which underscores the brand’s reach.